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July 27, 2008

I'm off to Asia!

My trip to Cambodia and Thailand will begin in one hour. I will be more or less offline for the next three weeks.


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July 25, 2008

Stephen Fry

From Stephen Fry's blog:

Digital devices rock my world. This might be looked on by some as a tragic admission. Not ballet, opera, the natural world, Stephen? Not literature, theatre or global politics? Even sport would be less mournfully inward and dismally unsociable.

Well, people can be dippy about all things digital and still read books, they can go to the opera and watch a cricket match and apply for Led Zeppelin tickets without splitting themselves asunder. Very little is as mutually exclusive as we seem to find it convenient to imagine. In our culture we are becoming more and more fixated with an “it’s one thing or the other” mentality. You like Thai food? But what’s wrong with Italian? Woah, there… calm down. I like both. Yes. It can be done. I can like rugby football and the musicals of Stephen Sondheim. High Victorian Gothic and the installations of Damien Hirst. Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass and the piano works of Hindemith. English hymns and Richard Dawkins. First editions of Norman Douglas and iPods. Snooker, darts and ballet. Such a list isn’t a boast, it doesn’t make one an all-rounder to rival Michelangelo, it’s how humans are constructed. Adaptable, varied, versatile. So, believe me, a love of gizmos doesn’t make me averse to paper, leather and wood, old-fashioned Christmases, Preston Sturges films and country walks. Nor does it automatically mean I read Terry Pratchett, breathe only through my mouth and bring my head slightly too close to the bowl when I eat soup. (None of the above, I grant you, excuses a 50-year-old for saying that anything “rocks his world”; that’s just too horrid and must stop.)

I'm not 50. Stephen Fry rocks my world.

Posted by Julie at 12:33 PM | TrackBack

July 24, 2008

Dressed for anything

Anyone who knows Norwegian culture, knows that the social norms are very different in the woods and mountains than they are in the cities. Norwegian skiers and hikers greet and even smalltalk with strangers, but this will never happen on an Oslo street (unless the Norwegians are drunk). The rules of fashion vary too. One of my first blog posts ever was about the "hytte look". After spending a weekend in the woods with my new college class, I wrote about the way Norwegians dress when they head up to mountain cottages. There is an unspoken rule that even if the only "hiking" you do is walking for half an hour on an asphalt road, you should still put on your "hiking outfit" (Like this or this or this, or maybe something like this). 

After a semester with Americans in Paris, and recently entertaining an American Eurail tourist for a long weekend, I've had some interesting Europe vs. US fashion conversations. During one of these conversations, I realized that when Norwegians leave Oslo and head up into the woods, they become Americans - friendly, but badly dressed.

Despite the many "dress like a European" tips in American travel books and websites (an example), I can usually spot the Americans on any European city street. Not only are travellers in general easily recognizable with their philosophy of "in order to be ready for anything on this trip, I must always dress as if I were about to climb Mount Everest, even if I'm just walking down a Norwegian street".  But as my American backpacker friend explained, they don't want to overdress, because then it looks like they care too much.

"So I should make an effort to dress down so that Americans won't think I'm making an effort?" I ask. Maybe I'm too much of a European city girl, but to me, that doesn't make sense. 

There are sensible rules for what to wear in more or less extreme conditions. But often the most important reason for wearing hiking clothes or “travelling” clothes is to show the others that you are above such silly things as fashion, that all you care about is practical matters, and that you are now leaving your superficial, fashion-conscious city life behind and returning to nature. And we all know that high-tech windproof jackets are much more natural than, say, cashmere sweaters.

Coco Chanel once said: "I don't understand how a woman can leave the house without fixing herself up a little - if only out of politeness. And then, you never know, maybe that's the day she has a date with destiny. And it's best to be as pretty as possible for destiny." When I think of dressing so that I'm ready for anything, I have something more Chanel-ish in mind. She also said: "Luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it is not luxury." So I never buy anything uncomfortable, and that includes never buying anything I think is ugly.

I've wanted to read a chapter of Almost French to both this backpacker and many of the other people who think I "try too hard". Almost French is a highly recommended book about an Australian girl who visits a man (Frédéric) in Paris, and decides to stay with him there. Continue reading for a short version of this chapter, which explains the Paris approach to dressing.

Perhaps my most revealing lesson in French dress standards occurs one Saturday morning soon after moving to Paris. Rushing to the bakery to get a baguette and croissants, I chuck on an old, shapeless jumper and my warmup pants, which I'd rediscovered at the bottom of a wardrobe when we were packing up our place at Levallois. Catching sight of me, Frédéric looks appalled.

"Warmup pants?" He's never seen me wearing them before.

"What's wrong with that? I'm only going to the bakery."

There is a second's pause. Frédéric's eyes implore me. Finally, he manages to speak.

"But it's not nice for the baker!"


Paris fashion is not about blindly following trends irrespective of whether or not they suit your body shape. It's no coincidence that movements like punk and grunge never really took off here. How unattractive. The French don't dress to make political statements. (...) The essence of French style can be summed up in two words, which linked together are loaded with meaning: bon goût. Good taste.


It isn't until I interview the fashion designer Inès de la Fressange that I truly understand Frédéric's abhorrence of warmup pants.


"Do you find that it's, you know, an effort trying to look good all the time?"


"To stay the whole day neat and impeccable is much more comfortable than looking like you're in your pajamas. You see, these women with tight leggings and huge sweaters, they imagine that because they are a little round it's better if they wear something big. But they just look worse. It is much more comfortable to wear a jacket that is well cut in a nice fabric than it is to look awful."

She pronounces the last word "offal". And suddenly it's quite clear to me that I have spent a good part of my life looking offal. Fifteen minutes with Inès and I've mentally chucked out all my baggy sweaters for those nights in front of the telly. (...) Never wear shorts in Paris, they're only for tourists, she declares. I cringe, recalling how I'd arrived at the airport for that first summer holiday wearing shorts. What was I thinking? "When it's very 'ot, it's better to wear long pants in linen or cotton. You would feel more 'appy, and we would feel more 'appy too." 

And there it is - the explanation for Frédéric's pathological aversion to warmup pants. The simple statement that instantly elucidates why in hotel rooms he'll remove any paintings from the wall that don't meet his approval. (...) "They're ugly. I didn't feel well." (...) He can't help it, you see. The thing is, the French are highly sensitive to aesthetics. Anything unattractive - even something as insignificant as an underdressed tourist - can make them uncomfortable. It spoils the lovely scenery. They become irritable. Unwell, as Frédéric put it.


Catch me on a good day and I can look soignée and stylish. But on a bad day, racing through the streets with wild hair and flying laces, I must leave a trail of "unwell" Parisians in my wake.

Excerpt from Almost French by Sarah Turnbull

Posted by Julie at 12:04 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 23, 2008

Pia Haraldsen feil - Del 2

Det er noe her inne - helt sant!

"Your manuscript is both good and original. But the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good." Samuel Johnson sa visst aldri dette, men jeg sier det nå. Det beskriver nemlig boken Pias Bekjennelser så godt. Jeg lovet en anmeldelse, og her er den...

La meg presisere et par ting. For det første, denne boken forandret mitt liv. Jeg ble nemlig solbrent, og senere ble jeg faktisk brun. Det skjer ikke. For det andre, mitt førsteinntrykk av Pia Haraldsen var positivt. Jeg satt og irriterte meg over hvor grå alle gjestene i Ingrid Alexandras barnedåp så ut, da hun dukket opp og smilte selvsikkert til fotografene. Skal du gå på en rød løper, skal du gjøre det skikkelig. Du skal ikke se ned i bakken med lutede skuldre som om du intenst ønsker deg vekk. Ja, slike kjendiser som er kjent for å være kjendiser er litt irriterende, men jeg lar meg likevel imponere av at hun har fått det til, og at hun gjør alt hun gjør med stil - selv om rosa minikjole og Hello Kitty smykke ikke er min stil.

Å slakte en bok med rosa glitterforside for at den inneholder "overfladiske" ting som skjønnhetstips, blir for latterlig. I motsetning til Vendelas "Beauty Bible", inneholder denne boken råd mange har godt av å få med seg. For Pia har helt rett i at alle bør kle seg etter sin egen figur og stil, ikke etter ukens trender. Og ikke minst at jenter som hele tiden snakker om at de har stygge lår, etter hvert vil være kjent for sine stygge lår, om ikke annet fordi det er det eneste de snakker om. Det er denne selvsikkerheten som gjør deler av "Pias Bekjennelser" gode. Dette er jo ting jeg selv har blogget om, og som jeg nesten hver dag prøver å tankeoverføre til tyske og amerikanske turistdamer. Med andre ord: det er ikke spesielt originalt.

Og med en gang det blir originalt, blir det også fryktelig dårlig. Ikke bare kjedelig, men også provoserende og raserifremkallende - og den kombinasjonen er sjelden. For i bokens siste halvdel, får vi svaret på "Hva slags fraser kan du lire av deg om både kunstverk og utenrikspolitikk og få det til å høres troverdig ut?" Eller: hvordan lure Jonas Gahr Støre til å tro at man bryr seg.

For det er klart man ikke bryr seg. Pia skriver rett ut at det eneste interessante med utenrikspolitikk er Jonas og Barack, men at man likevel bør unngå å snakke om sminke og kjendiser hele tiden - selv om det selvsagt er det man helst vil. Man er jo jente! Da forstår man ikke før man har lest det med rosa skrift: at man skal følge med på scenen når man er på teater, og at det kan lønne seg å "lese en kronikk i ny og ne". Dette er nøyaktig like nedverdigende som tanken på at kvinner skal utdanne seg kun for å møte velutdannede menn.

I de fleste mote- og skjønnhetsblader består første halvdel av retusjerte bilder av modeller med kropper som 13-årige gutter og siste halvdel av artikler om hvor viktig det er å vise "ekte kvinner" i motereportasjer. I Pias bok handler første halvdel om å være seg selv, andre halvdel om at vi alle er helt like, men at vi heldgvis kan lure menn til å tro noe annet. Og det minner meg om et annet artig sitat, nemlig Dorothy Parkers "You can lead a whore to culture, but you can't make her think."

Misforstå meg ikke. Det er ikke horete å innse at folk kan være overfladiske, å ta konsekvensen av denne innsikten og så prøve å nå så langt man bare kan. Men er man så smart som jeg tror Pia Haraldsen egentlig er, skal man holde seg for god til å oppfordre til dumhet. Spesielt hvis man ønsker å bli husket som noe annet enn "sminkedokka fra Snarøya" - som hun faktisk påpeker at hun er blitt (feilaktig!) anklaget for å være. Jeg har derfor to ting å si til denne bokens lesere:

Hvis sko er like viktig som utenrikspolitikk, hvorfor skal man late som om man er mer opptatt av utenrikspolitikk enn sko? Dersom du pugger "Pias Bekjennelser" for å ha noe interessant å si til en date, fortjener du ikke at den daten har noe til felles med Jonas Gahr Støre (og dette sier jeg som en Interjente som har drukket kaffe med fremtidens Jonaser).

Det kan lønne seg å lese en kronikk i ny og ne.Smarte jenter som gjør dumme ting er dumme. Er du så selvstendig og sterk som du påstår, klarer du å bry deg om flere ting på en gang. Men klarer du ikke det, kommer jeg til å dømme deg ut fra hva du prioriterer. Det er ikke sånn at noen jenter tenker på neglene sine, og noen jenter tenker på hva som skjer i verden, og begge typer interesser er like viktige og verdifulle. Hvem som blir USAs neste president er viktigere enn hvilket merke vesken din har, og hvis du ikke skjønner det, trenger ikke jeg å ta deg alvorlig.

Posted by Julie at 10:52 AM | TrackBack

July 10, 2008

I serien "andre bloggere skriver kloke ting som kan regnes som politisk ukorrekte"...

... la meg presentere:

Elever har litt for mange rettigheter: "For å si det litt enkelt: før var det elevens ansvar å sørge for å få med seg undervisningen. Nå er det skolens ansvar å passe på (og "dokumentere", selvsagt) at den har gitt eleven den nødvendige undervisningen som eleven har "krav" på."

Enkelte lider av post-kolonialt stress syndrom: "Det er noe ekstremt nedlatende over de som snakker som om kun hvite vesteuropeere alene er skyld i eller kan gjøre noe for land i Afrika."

Det er vanskelig å respektere andres tro og samtidig redde liv: "If a patient tells me that the voices that he hears direct him to do things, then I consider that he may have a mental health problem; however if they tell me that God (whichever one takes your fancy) has told them something then I can't challenge that."

Posted by Julie at 12:14 PM | TrackBack

July 8, 2008

Pia Haraldsens feil

Bikinien min matchet forsiden. I ettertid matchet huden min rammen på forsiden.Min Facebook status: Julie er solbrent (og skylder på Pia Haraldsen.)

Hvorfor? Jeg leste hele boken til Pia Haraldsen mens jeg lå på en flytebrygge utenfor Malmøya. Det tok ikke veldig lang tid å komme gjennom den boken, men lang nok tid til at jeg burde hatt mer/sterkere solkrem. Bikinien min matchet forsiden. I ettertid matchet huden min rammen på forsiden.

Ja, men hvorfor gjorde du DET da? Pia Haraldsens bok var årsak til en liten slåsskamp diskusjon ved en middag hos familien min for noen måneder siden. Min far og jeg hadde begge lest om den i Morgenbladet, og vi var skeptiske. Min mor og en av mine søstre forsvarte boken. Ingen av oss hadde lest den på dette tidspunktet, men da den viste seg å være i mine foreldres hus da jeg besøkte dem på en fridag, måtte jeg bare finne ut hvem av oss som hadde rett.

Og hvem hadde rett? Vel...

Posted by Julie at 12:53 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 4, 2008

Women don't choose math

Because blogging is not (yet?) an acceptable excuse for missing the bus to work, I can't comment on this. But here it is.

Posted by Julie at 9:00 AM | TrackBack

July 3, 2008

Summer in Oslo, part two: Tourist attractions

Three favorite tourist attractions in Oslo:

1. The Norwegian Folk Museum. I work there because it's a great museum. And since I work there, it's a great museum. This is an open-air history museum - the world's oldest actually. It's basically a collection of historical buildings from different regions in Norway, complete with real Norwegian guides in real Norwegian national costumes (bunad is the Norwegian word). Of course I kind of have to put my steady summer job (I've lost count of how long I've been working there) on this list, but I seriously think this is the one museum you should go to, if you only have time (or cash) for one. After a few hours here, you will have experienced Norway on so many levels. There's a church from the 1200s and several grassy-roofed farmhouses from the 1600s, but you can also see a Norwegian student apartment from the 1980s and a Pakistani-Norwegian apartment from the 2000s. And about half of the visitors to this museum are Norwegians - it's not a tourist trap, it's something Oslo-people enjoy doing every summer. Take the 30 bus to Folkemuseet, and while you're in the area, you can check out the Viking Ships and Kon Tiki, if you have time/money/interest.

2. Vigelandsparken/Frognerparken. This park by Majorstuen metro station goes by two names. Technically, the first refers to the sculpture park by Gustav Vigeland, also known as "the park with all the naked statues", and the second is the rest of the area. Again, this is a good chance to do the touristy things that real Oslo people actually do. As far as I know, Vigelandsparken is a unique art experience. Frognerparken includes a swimming pool, and plenty of those sun-craving, beer-drinking Norwegians I mentioned earlier. Oh, and this is free!

3. The Opera House Sure, you could see an opera or a ballet here. But the building itself is a tourist attraction. It's brand new, it's right by the main train station, and you can walk on the roof and have a picnic there - but you can't drink alcohol or roller-skate. Here's a three-minute video of the whole building process.

See also:

Posted by Julie at 11:11 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack